Faculty Spotlight: Kenneth J. Meier

October 24, 2017

Ken Meier

Dr. Kenneth J. Meier

Dr. Kenneth J. Meier, professor in the Department of Public Service and Administration, earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of South Dakota and his master’s and PhD in political science from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse. Before coming to Texas A&M, he held faculty positions at Rice University, the University of Oklahoma, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and UW-Milwaukee. He is editor-in-chief of Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory and was also the editor of the American Journal of Political Science from 1994 to 1997.

Meier has been at Texas A&M University since 1998 and holds the rank of Distinguished Professor at the University as well as a joint appointment as professor of public management at the Cardiff University School of Business in Wales. A member of the National Academy of Public Administration, Meier directs the Project for Equity, Representation and Governance; the Texas Educational Excellence Project; and the Carlos Cantu Hispanic Education and Opportunity Endowment.

Meier is considered a leading authority in two areas of research: the role of public organizations in public policy, and race and politics. Throughout his career, he has employed institutional theories of politics to determine who gets what, when, and how, while examining a wide range of policy issues, including education and antitrust policy, insurance regulation, access to abortion and family planning, government corruption, political patronage, and gender and bureaucracy.

Joining the Bush School has enhanced his research efforts, says Meier, who is currently leading three major multi-year projects. One is examining the politics of Latino and African American education in 1800 US school districts. He has already completed the African American portion of the project and is now working on the Latino aspects of education in US school districts. A second project on public management considers how institutions are governed, while a third project combines the approaches of these two to study similar questions in the United Kingdom, Denmark, and the Netherlands.

“My research is ‘real-world’ based,” says Meier, “and that’s the essence of public administration, which is one reason I’m pleased to be at the Bush School, which emphasizes the importance of public service. In addition, several of these projects are international in scope and could provide Bush School students with broader research experiences,” he added.

During his career, Meier has contributed to a wide range of subfields in political science, including public management, race and politics, comparative politics, public policy, and political institutions. His research has been widely published, and he has been recognized as among the most productive international political scientists. A recent study in the journal PS: Political Science and Politics, which reviewed more than 67,000 peer-reviewed articles in ninety-six high-impact journals from 1990 to 2013, indicated that Meier has published ninety-five papers, more than any other scholar. He has also scored high on the index that indicates his links with other authors in the field, which is the result of extensive collaboration with other scholars, including his own PhD students.

Meier has received numerous awards and honors over his career, including the State Politics and Policy Career Achievement Award (2010) and the Herbert A. Simon book award (2011) as well as awards from the Academy of Management (2000), Public Administration Review (2001), the American Society for Public Administration (2002), and the Association of Former Students (2003). He has received mentoring awards from the American Political Science Association sections of Public Policy (2006), Women and Politics (2008), and Latino politics (2005), as well as the Texas A&M Association of Former Students.

In 2015, the Midwest Political Science Association (MPSA) established a new award recognizing outstanding scholarship in politics, public administration, and public policy honoring Meier. The award will recognize the best paper in bureaucratic politics, public administration, or public policy presented at the MPSA annual conference.

Meier sees Texas A&M as the quintessential land grant university, or, as he says, “the Toys-R-Us” for social scientists. “As a graduate of a land grant university and having taught at several others, I’ve found that these institutions emphasize interactions with entities that benefit from, and use, our research. Also, our graduates have a significant effect on how government and nonprofit institutions create and implement policies,” Meier says. “This is particularly true of Bush School graduates,” he added.

While his research is an important element of his academic career, Meier is equally passionate about teaching. He has influenced countless members of the discipline and continues to mentor students, and has served as a chair or member on over sixty dissertation committees and over thirty MA committees.

“I’ve been teaching PhD students exclusively for several years, so teaching master’s students will require some adjustment in my thinking. Beyond that, the change will also allow me to help Bush School students as they decide on public service careers,” he said.

“Dr. Meier brings not only his impressive record of scholarship and leadership to the School but also a reputation as a major influence in his discipline and as a mentor of graduate and undergraduate students,” said Dean Welsh. “We are honored to have Dr. Meier join our distinguished faculty and look forward to his active participation in the School’s research, teaching, and service activities.”

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